BILLINGS — Monday marked the end of an era at Billings Skyview.
Ron Lebsock, who had served as the Falcons’ football coach since the school first opened, resigned Monday morning from the post he had held for 33 seasons.
“I’d been thinking about it,” Lebsock said. “I prayed hard about it, and the first thing that always comes to mind is my grandkids.”
The 61-year-old Lebsock has four grandchildren — two living in Denver and two in Billings — that he looks forward to spending more time with. During football season it is difficult to find quality family time and in the off-season there are camps and other time-consuming duties that come with being the head coach, he said.
“It was toward the end of the season last year that I had some real thoughts (of resigning),” Lebsock said. “When I sat down and really thought about it, the grandkids and my wife came to my mind and it made the decision, I wouldn’t say easy, but it swayed that way.
“My incredible wife (Bartie) has put up with 38 years of me and my being gone a lot. I’ll spend more time with her. That is real important, too.”
All five of Lebsock’s sons — Christopher, Matt, Shawn, Nick and Connor — played for him at Skyview. Matt, Shawn and Connor have also coached at Skyview.
“Being able to work with my sons at Skyview as players and coaches have really made it special, too,” Lebsock said.
Since Skyview began playing at the Class AA level in 1986, Lebsock guided the Falcons to a 145-182 record and state championships in 1995 and 2003. The Falcons were state runner-up in 2004. His teams made the playoffs 12 times. The Falcons were 3-7 last season.
Billings Public Schools director of athletics and activities Mark Wahl thanked Lebsock for his years of service.
"We can't thank Ron enough for his leadership and the great impact he has had on the many, many young men who went through his program,” Wahl said in a press release. “While we are happy for coach as he embarks on this new phase of his life, we will truly miss his presence as the head football coach at Skyview."
There from the beginning
Former Skyview wrestling coach Rich Malia said Lebsock was helpful to him when he was coaching the wrestlers. If Malia ever needed any advice, or someone to visit with about the team, Lebsock was there for him. Malia has worked with Lebsock since Skyview opened during the 1985-86 school year.
“When kids think about Skyview High School, they think about Ron Lebsock,” Malia said. “He’s been here since the beginning and was at Lincoln Center when the school first started.
“How many coaches can say they started the program at the high school and still be there 33 years?” Malia said. “There’s not many guys in the state of Montana who have coached a sport and won two state titles. That is pretty impressive.”
Sean Joyce has been an assistant coach at Skyview for 20-plus years and graduated from the school in 1991. He is now a teacher at Skyview. He recalled first meeting Lebsock as an eighth-grader at the Heights Football Camp, where “right away I recognized this was a knowledgeable, genuine, sincere and caring leader, who would teach me many lessons as I went through his program.”
Joyce said he would miss coaching with Lebsock.
“He positively influenced many of my old teammates and recent students that have gone through the program,” Joyce said. “I think it is notable two of my boys have played for him, and I am forever indebted to Ron for his selfless service to the Heights community.”
During Skyview’s first season in 1985, the team only had freshmen and sophomores and they played a Class B schedule. The following season, Skyview had juniors, sophomores and freshmen on the roster and played a Class AA schedule.
Overall, Lebsock has been a coach for 40 years. The Butte native played football at the University of Montana and upon graduating was a graduate assistant for the Griz. He was then an assistant coach for three years at Billings Central and three years at Billings West before taking the Skyview job.
'Go home and be good ....'
Jerry Jette has also served as an assistant for 20-plus years with Lebsock and is a teacher at Skyview. Jette said Lebsock was one of the first coaches in the area to have the Falcons introduced as a team and not individuals in pregame ceremonies, “because he cared about the kids as a team and it was a team sport.”
Jette said Lebsock always closed practice the same way.
“Ron bleeds blue and silver and cares about the kids,” Jette said. “One of the things that shows he cares about the kids is he would say, ‘We are done with practice and you go home and be good to your mom and dad and do what they say.’ It wasn’t about Ron. He cared about the kids.”
Lebsock said he doesn’t plan on retiring from teaching in the immediate future as he still loves his job of teaching health enhancement and driver’s education.
While coaching at Skyview, Lebsock said he had good assistants to help him guide the Falcons. Rich St. John and AJ Bone have been assistants since the beginning and Jette, Joyce and Todd Bertsch are longtime assistants. Jerry Sauther, now retired, was another key assistant.
“We are blessed with great people in our community,” Lebsock said. “There were so many great players and I’ll miss every one of them. I consider myself truly blessed to have been able to work with them.”